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If there is a scheme,
perhaps this too is in the scheme,

Charles Reznikoff


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The atmosphere of the final sigh

Let's look at the next bit of Altazor's prologue. So far there have been two brief, pointed soliloquies, by God and by Altazor; the next to speak will be the Virgin. I am dying to know whether the Spanish word "aureola" is a pun for "aureola/halo" -- as an English speaker reading the Virgin saying "look at my aureola" has a different meaning from "look at my halo"... [...argh, never mind, this was based on a confusion on my part between "aureola" and "areola".]

I take my parachute; running off the edge of my star I launch myself into the atmosphere of the final sigh.

I circle endlessly above the cliffs of dream, I circle among the clouds of death.

I meet the Virgin, seated on a rose; she says to me:

"Look at my hands: they are transparent, like electric bulbs. Do you see the filaments where the blood of my pure light is running?

"Look at my halo. Cracks run through it, proving my antiquity.

"I am the Virgin, the Virgin with no taint of human ink, the only one who is not only halfway there; I am the captain of the other eleven thousand, who have been to tell the truth overmuch restored.

"I speak a language which fills the heart, according to the law of clouds in communion.

"I am always saying goodbye, and I remain.

"Love me, my child, for I adore your poetry. I will teach you aerial prowess.

"I need, so strongly do I need your tenderness; kiss my locks, I have washed them this morning in the clouds of the dawn. I want to lie down and sleep, on my mattress, the intermittent mist.

"My glances are a wire on the horizon, where the swallows can rest.

"Love me."

I knelt in that circular space. The Virgin rose up and seated herself on my parachute.

I slept; I recited my most beautiful poems.

The flames of my poetry dried out the Virgin's hair; she thanked me and then slipped away, seated on her soft rose.

"The flames of my poetry"! -- remember, true song is arson.

I am not able to make much sense of the third paragraph of the Virgin's speech -- who are the other 11,000? Who has been restoring them? What is everyone else only halfway? [Jorge López supplies some good ideas toward an answer in comments.]

Spanish below the fold.

Miramos la próxima porción del prefacio de Altazor. Hasta ahora hay dos breves y intencionados soliloquios, uno de Dios y uno de Altazor mismo. La próxima oradora será la Virgen. Quiero saber si la «aureola» es un juego de palabras -- en inglés «aureola» remita al pezón, así la orden de la Virgen, «mira mi aureola»...

Tomo mi paracaídas, y del borde de mi estrella en marcha, me lanzo a la atmósfera del último suspiro.

Ruedo interminablemente sobre las rocas de los sueños, ruedo entra las nubes de la muerte.

Encuentro a la Virgen sentada en una rosa, y me dice:

«Mira mis manos: son trasparentes como las bombillas eléctricas. ¿Ves los filamentos de donde corre la sangre de mi luz intacta?

»Mira mi aureola. Tiene algunas saltaduras, lo que prueba mi ancianidad.

»Soy la Virgen, la Virgen sin mancha de tinta humana, la única que no lo sea a medias, y soy la capitana de las otras once mil que estaban en verdad demasiado restauradas.

»Hablo una lengua que llena los corazones según la ley de las nubes comunicantes.

»Digo siempre adiós, y me quedo.

»Amame, hijo mío, pues adoro tu poesía y te enseñaré proezas aéreas.

»Tengo tanta necesidad de ternura, besa mis cabellos, los he lavado esta mañana en las nubes del alba y ahora quiero dormirme sobre el colchón de la neblina intermitente.

»Mis miradas son un alambre en el horizonte para el descanso de las golondrinas.

»Amame.»

Me puse de rodillas en el espacio circular y la Virgen se elevó y vino a sentarse en mi paracaídas.

Me dormí y recité entonces mis más hermosos poemas.

Las llamas de mi poesía secaron los cabellos de la Virgen, que me dijo gracias y se alejó, sentada sobre su rosa blanda.

«Las llamas de mi poesía»! -- Recuerda, los verdaderos poemas son incendios.

No puede buen entender el tercero párrafo del discurso de la Virgen: ¿quién son las otras once mil? ¿Qué significa aquí «restauradas»? ¿Qué son todos otras «a medias»?

posted morning of Sunday, September 12th, 2010
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Well, aureola means exactly halo, then you have areola, same meaning in both english and spanish, and while they both sound similar, I don't think there's a word play here.

About the 11.000 other virgins.. what about an estimate of virgin sculptures in churches, which could be actually overmuch restored, looking newer than they actually are? It goes along with the "look at my halo with cracks" idea of the virgin being a physical thing coming to life.

posted morning of September 13th, 2010 by Jorge López

Oh, that is a good idea. I hadn't been thinking of the Virgin as a statue come to life, but that works well with the imagery in the poem. Embarrassing, my misreading of ‘aureola’!

posted morning of September 13th, 2010 by Jeremy

here it is... ; )

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Curious_Myths_of_the_Middle_Ages/S._Ursula_and_the_Eleven_Thousand_Virgins

posted morning of August 24th, 2012 by José Luis Soler

Fantastic! Thanks mil veces.

posted evening of August 24th, 2012 by Jeremy

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